The Familiar vs The Uncertain

It’s a hoot for me to run across phrases with universality – ones written for now, for me, for my life. Like this one. “…we are all drawn to the familiar in moments of disruption and situations of uncertainty.” Though from a book printed in 2019, it fits these days we are trudging through. Often I sense time sailing by. Not lately. Time is a square clock being kicked through a soggy feed lot.

What do I know about a soggy feedlot, you ask? Enough. Having lived on a farm for a brief time with a son active in high school FFA and jazz band, I had the fun of doing some of his chores when he was on field trips. It was fun for real, but it could be messy, too. One afternoon, still in teaching attire – skirt/sweater/ hose/heels – I stepped out of my shoes into my boots, grabbed a bucket and traipsed back and forth twixt the feed in the barn and the troughs in the lot. Cows are creatures of routine with exceptional hearing and timing. They were lining up at the troughs by the time I reached the gate. The farther into the lot I stomped, the soupier the muck was. I don’t walk fast in optimum conditions, so when I stepped out of one boot grabbed by the swampy mess, I had time to back up and reboot before I lost the other. All the troughs were finally filled to order and surrounded by lots of big cows. As I turned to lock the gate, I saw some stragglers, some little ones who couldn’t find space at the table and looked at me with those hungry longing eyes. Back to the barn for one more bucketful to pour into an unused trough. The way the calves were watching me, I felt confident we could pull it off – sneak food in so they could have some dinner before the big cows caught on. Wrong. Looming ever larger behind the younger ranks were the bigger noisier ones. I had to get out of the way FAST. This time the slurpy muck grabbed BOTH boots and down I went. I made it to the target trough pretty much using one hand, two knees and stockinged feet, emptied the bucket between a couple of curious calves, slung it over the fence and headed to the gate. Not the mud bath of ritzy spas. Little short on aromatic oils and plush bath robes. Thankfully the sprint in the altogether to my front door was without witness, since I was out of options and my clothes.

Where was I going? Oh, yes, to being “drawn to the familiar in moments of disruption and situations of uncertainty,” a thought penned by Tim Schenck in Holy Grounds. During the last couple of months I have leaned on some favorite familiars and re-discovered some former comfort-inducing activities and foods.

*Raisin bran – The last run I personally made to the grocery, I grabbed some. After years without even thinking about it, it’s my breakfast each morning and on every grocery list.

*Coffee’s aroma – Yes, I am drinking it, too, not making it purely to sniff, but it’s the smell that brings me comfort since that was a consistent part of my life long before drinking it was.

*A sunny nap – This one has been harder to come by, but napping on a rug in the warmth of the sun’s rays is a nostalgic nod to the security of my childhood.

*Pepsi – Gotta be cold, poured into a glass with real ice cubes and sipped infrequently since it is full of sugar that my grownup self doesn’t need. It satisfies like none other sitting on the porch after a round of mowing.

*Listening to the radio – Mom always had it on when I was a city kid, listening to big band stuff. Dad listened to Cardinal games, sometimes watching them on TV with the sound turned off, preferring the radio commentary. After settling in Doniphan, we lived several years without an antenna, so without TV. KDFN kept us connected to the outside world and helped us become friends with our new one. Radio rocks.

What familiar favorites are encouraging you these days?

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This Boomer’s Summer Rap

It is Memorial Day 2020. Due to lay-offs and job losses in these pandemic times, more of us might be experiencing the great outdoors on this much-appreciated warm sunny day. The holiday is depicted as the start of the summer sseason though the summer solstice is some days away. Whatever your circumstances and attitude toward the establishment these days, I hope you don’t take for granted our rights and privileges that members of our armed forces died to protect. Ripley Countians have been among them.

Denim derrieres and tie-dyed tees
Remind me of summers of the younger me,
When all was fun, no worries or fears
To cloud the summers of my early years.

Shorts were cutoffs made at home;
Halters and tank tops screamed Coppertone,
Sandals on my feet and radio in hand,
I walked the streets in a different land.

Bikes and skates and kick the can
Kept me on the move and somewhat tan.
SIdewalk gangs played out till dark,
Home wasn’t far from the neighborhood park.

As a boomer I work to stay active now,
And avoid the sun no matter how
White I am at the end of the day,
Sometimes before dark, surprising to say.

Life is good with friends about;
I might move slower and have to shout
So some can hear the fun that’s near.
Grateful for the summer of another year.

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Friend & Foe – Remembering 2017 Flood

Friend and Foe – Remembering 2017
Posted Monday, May 25, 2020, at 7:58 AM
You’ve been here for ages,
Your rages and seduction shared in pages of time.

Rains falling with vengeance,
Increasing the strains on your banks
Along with the pains of change.

Your dark churning water races,
Removing traces of life, love, joy,
Leaving spaces disgracing your allure.

Our brains can’t fathom your destruction –
Physical, emotional,
Individual, communal,
Economical, spiritual.
Hope tied to rejuvenation,
Searching for safety, sanity and
Lemonade.

Ravished:
Seized by force or filled with delight – the Jekyll and Hyde of our Current River.

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All Grown Up?

One chilly damp May afternoon I was amused to find myself reading about coffee from a cool book by Tim Schenck titled Holy Grounds. For me, drinking coffee is hardly habitual. Almost to the end of my sixty-sixth year, I have infinitesimal coffee consumption compared to that of most adults. For more comic relief in my dismal kitchen on that dreary day, I pulled from the back of a bottom pantry shelf a coffee bean / spice grinder still in the box, purchased three or more years ago on an impulsive whim at the same time I purchased a coffee maker. I broke the coffee pot before its first use, thus the reason the grinder was stored away.

Fast forward to 2019. After enjoying coffee from a Keurig and realizing I could savor various flavors without wasting a drop, I purchased one. Several 2020 calendar pages were ripped away before I decided to use it. Having a morning cup is a marvelous coping tool, giving me moments to focus on ways to make my days productive. And I have discovered coffee naps. Not the contradiction it seems. In early afternoon, I wind down with another cup, then set a timer for a 20-minute power nap and wake rested and energized all at the same time!

Not drinking coffee wasn’t a conscious decision. My parents never failed to offer me some when I would pop in to say hello and visit for a few minutes. “Want a cup of coffee?” was always asked and my answer was always “No, thank you” as I opened the fridge hunting for a Diet Coke or the milk to make a glass of chocolate from the Nestle Quik in the cabinet. Years later I realized it wasn’t really an offer of refreshment. They were showing acceptance of and my graduation to the camaraderie of adulthood. It didn’t dawn on me till it was too late to enjoy a cup with either of them. Perhaps in my own mind I remained their kid as long as I drank pop or chocolate milk, a welcome mini-reprieve from being all grown up, which is not always what it’s cracked up to be. They did teach me to make it, though, in their Guardian Service percolator. Those sounds and scents will be forever nostalgic.

On a birthday trip to New Orleans (the birthday that qualified me for AARP membership), I savored cafe au lait with my beignets, and long before I sampled espresso on the banks of the Seine in Paris, making and serving it in an authentic demitasse was part of French class lesson plans late in my classroom tenure. Neither ever became routine in my household, though.

Coffee is in my cupboard now. Keurig is getting a workout. My first bag of coffee beans is on order from Equal Exchange and the coffee bean grinder is out of its box and instructions are read. Coffee drinking has gained a priority status in my household now. Does that mean I am finally all grown up?

Coffee cup

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Turning Twenty

The twenty-first century is maturing.
Time flew through its adolescence.
Will we manage a world hopefully enduring
With love, peace and effervescence?

At its birth we used the word ‘millennial’
And we all survived the Y2 Scare.
But the growing pains seem perennial.
Humanity and AI make quite a pair.

Human connection is digitized.
Lovers’ gazes aren’t face to face;
It’s via devices now romanticized.
The world’s becoming a peculiar place.

Paper is out, screens are in;
Reality is increasingly virtual.
Privacy’s walls are growing thin.
Finding the truth’s a trek unusual.

Will its emerging adulthood provide a break
From time and technology speeding?
Are there lessons for humanity’s sake
We should slow down and start heeding?

We’ll ponder after the countdown and cake –
This century IS turning twenty –
No doubt we’ll have adjustments to make
And wish for more birthdays a’plenty.

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A Time Sublime?

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” This quote by Dr. Seuss inspired the following.

Up at 6, going through the motions.
When skies are bleak and gray,
It’s tough to work up locomotion,
To keep track of the parts of the day.

When noon seems like morning,
Is it cereal I will eat?
Soon, without warning,
I will seldom raise my feet.

Is it naptime or bedtime?
Does it really matter?
Is this a time sublime?
No! I’m just getting fatter.

All this eating and sleeping!
I’m not enough on the move!
A routine I am not keeping.
I need to find a groove!

Covid-19, are you still there?
For sure, how do we know?
Here, there and everywhere…
You seem to stalk us so.

We miss our routine
But guards can’t go down.
Hands must be clean
If we venture to town.

EVERYONE I want to hug
Whether friend or not!
But I don’t want this bug
So stay on your spot.

We’ll learn new ways
To share our love.
We’ll survive these days
With guidance from above.

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Battling the Gray-sky Blues

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I have flipped every switch and turned on every lighted appliance in every room. For some reason Mother Nature has taken a hankerin’ to a dark shade on her beloved sun lamp. Time to redecorate, Ma’am! And time for ME to signal the troops.

When we have too many cloudy, dreary days in a row, covid-19 or no covid-19, this scout declares war on gray-sky blues. Before the lights settled in on the front lines, I gathered equipment used in dire sitations. Among the items in my pack is a full-spectrum daylight bulb that helps, whether scientifically or through the placebo-effect. (Does it matter)? That staved off the enemy while I searched for handy reinforcements.

First, a uniform that might seem to make me a conspicuous target. I donned the brightest boldest tie-dyed tee I own. Motivation booster – imperative in this struggle. There are a lot of us in the boomer-hippie army, so I am sufficiently camouflaged.

Second – the timeless weapon – music. I have to be strategic here. Music too loud might convey a desperate vulnerable situation, which could rally the opponent’s troops. Music too soft or too melancholy or too reminiscent of carefree days could lead to retreat. There is a time for retreat to the bunkers, but not today. Instead I will march to tunes upbeat with a classic rock rhythm yet without a steady stream of too-familiar lyrics. (99.1 KQJN – LP provides great backup). Gotta stay on my toes and alert for any movement by the enemy and strike first. Timing matters in this fight.

A third surprise element in this battle is the housecat, at times unnervingly wary and at other times deceitfully calm. This soldier is emulating Sergeant DaVinci. Fake it till I make it, and curl up in the foxhole for a nap when necessary.

This mission relies on my scouting abilities regardless of the weather accompanying the darkened skies. I am prepared. Bring it on, Mother Nature. I will be here when the sun returns.

“Every light in the house is on
Just in case you ever do get tired of being gone
Every light in the house is on…” Lyrics by Kent Robbins, Recorded by Trace AdkinsIMG_20200424_172645

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Appearances and Assumptions

When I hear the name Shel Silverstein, I think of Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic, and I visualize the poignant cover of The Giving Tree. What I DON’T think of is Playboy contributor and songwriter. A Grammy-award-winning tune recorded by Johnny Cash – “ A Boy Named Sue” – is Silverstein’s!

Appearances and impressions can be misleading. We assign labels mindlessly, putting folks into confining boxes and assuming they stay there, that they WANT to stay there. We might even let those boxes others create for us determine our paths.

Preconceived notions can be hazardous to ourselves and others in these bizarre times of abrupt life changes. Really listen and look at neighbors and really pay attention to self, too. There is a lot of struggling and juggling going on even though the struggles and juggles might not be obvious ones.

Stress can be a trigger of depression for some of us. In the midst of it we don’t readily acknowledge that depression warps reality. These times are chaotic enough but thoughts can go in a snap from ‘what-iffing’ to “when’ another imagined disaster will occur. We might feel fear and sadness and question why and how others seem to carry on in spite of circumstances when we sense an incredibly slippery slope ahead. Those seeming to carry on might sense the same slippery slope but camouflage it better. Managing can be exhausting. So can pretending to be managing.

John Moe, humorist and author of a book entitled “The Hilarity of Depression” and creator of a podcast by the same name, was interviewed recently on the NPR program Fresh Air. He clarified that depression is something he has but it does not define him. A friend of his offered a grand comparison. Having depression is like having a bad back. Time can go by with no problems, perhaps because one learns what to do and not to do to keep both at bay. When flare-ups happen, we pull out our ‘tool kit’ of medications, physical therapy or mental therapy to tackle the pain till it again subsides.

There are ways to manage depression.Talking about it prevents it from growing unseen like a cancer. Keep in touch with your neighbors, for them and you.

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Tribute to a Friend

Jack-of-all-trades, master of none
Didn’t fit this particular one.
When and where did he learn all he knew?
Anything you needed it seemed he could do.

The tasks he tackled at times were grand
But were perfected with his talented hand.
Determined and hard-working, high he set the bar.
To find another you’d have to look far.

Our ‘sweat breaks’ from RRR and KC’s
We’re often filled with hilarity
From his keen observations and unique wit.
Never boring, not one tiny bit.

His knowledge deep, wisdom deeper still,
No one his shoes will be able to fill.
If one looks, there are hints he was near.
Heaven has gained him; he’s no longer here.

A generous spirit, an enduring heart,
Kind, creative, fun-loving and smart.
If you knew him, you’ve stories to tell.
I’m glad I knew him. Rest in peace, Wayne Bell.

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Isolation Revelations

My thoughts about physical distancing are not earth shattering or original. We are all in this pandemic together learning as we go, scrolliing through the same Facebook memes, facing the same fears and shortages, laughing at the same jokes that make cyclical rounds on social media and offering optiimistic encouragement when we see the need. But what the heck. It is deadline time and I don’t have a brilliant…ha…column idea so here are some of my self-revelations during my extended hours at home.

*Why did I have the urge to eat nearly ALL of my newly-purchased snacks during my first two days of self-isolation? Chocolate chip granola bars, microwave movie popcorn, ginger ale, Dove dark chocolate candies, salt and vinegar chips are all items I do not normally keep on hand. Good thing, but when reality began to set in, my comfort foods vanished quickly. I don’t even particularly like granola bars. Those items aren’t necessities so there is no special trip to the grocery for junk food alone. Now my gallant fella is doing my grocery shopping for me; I feel like he is entering a mine field every time. Precautions are taken all around, but those who don’t take this seriously are scary and they pop up everywhere.

*How could I go a whole day without brushing my hair? That ponytail band was all tangled up and it was not fun getting it out. It hurt and I had no one else to blame. Fresh insight on my mother’ impulse decades ago to take me to a salon to have my ponytail cut off above the rubber band. Second grade school photos were comical – unruly curls at ear length and missing front teeth – but Mom’s daily battles ended. I could run a brush through my own tenderhead of hair. Nope, I wouldn’t do that now, I don’t think. My bangs are starting to bug me, though.

*I do not skip brushing my teeth. I might be doing that more. It seems to be an instant mood-lifter.

*Boiled eggs – cheap, easy and versatile. Great alone as a meal or a snack, or mashed in tuna to perfect that salad or deviled for the ultimate fancy cuz-I-deserve-it treat. Normally one must eat boiled eggs strategically or it poses embarrassing etiquette dilemmas, so this social distancing means I can have all I want when I want with no one to notice but the cat. A note. All this extra time on my hands has not increased my patience peeling the boiled egg. I once peeled 100 to make 200 deviled eggs. That was almost fun. Peeling a dozen for myself, however, seems to take hours. Doing the task with mounting frustration mounts the mess. Wonder if music would help. Should I try peeling to Moon River or Who Let the Dogs Out?

*Netflix subscripton charges have been deducted from my account since before retirement 12 years ago. (Was it 12? The way I sense the passage of time is all topsy-turvy as I adjust to so many days in the same place doing similar things seeing the same…cat). It isn’t a great expense but it has been a wasted one till now, especially since I tossed my television and dish service maybe 4 years ago. If movies/television show options are indicative of societal trends – oh my! So much of it is really weird to this columnist – a member of one of the more vulnerable brackets in this pandemic. Even the trailers will shock/scare/gross out to the point that I sometimes give up before making a selection. Enough of them have lured me in and would have been quite enjoyable had I not eaten all my microwave movie popcorn before I reintroduced myself to at-home viewing. Do you have any favorites to suggest? I am branching out and sampling genres I used to avoid, expanding beyond romantic comedies, a little.

*The laptop is my connection to everyone and everything right now. It even takes me to church. Sometimes I set it aside to walk around the yard, to talk to my perplexed cat, to take a nap, to hunt down that book I’ve been wanting to read or to fix a meal. The news, the factual stuff, is overwhelming. I have developed a system to avoid some of the hype that increases my anxiety and go straight to the sources that give facts and offer steps to deal with the crises developing in real time on all our screens. It has been a great eye-opener. We are coping due to tremendous sacrificial efforts by a task force that includes workers of all ages, all education/training levels, all genders, all races, all nationalities. Locally the contributions of our city and county leaders, our eateries, our health care workers in all categories, our school personnel still at it and highly concerned about the welfare of the students they are missing, all of those that provide a sense of normalcy in this turbulent period – like the postoffice workers, delivery services, newpapers, and businesses that offer healthy diversions like the garden nurseries and online auctions. I know I can’t name them all. Many, many are making masks for those serving covid-19 patients and the general public directly. So many to thank and appreciate. Then there are those who cannot work due to job loss or temporary closure of services deemed non-essential. Stress, frustration, fear, despair and grief are palpable.

*I have often only half-jokingly said I want to live to be 100. When this passes and we are in our ‘new’ normal, for undoubtedly there will be changes, I hope we are a kinder, more appreciative and more caring nation, devoting time to family, friends and causes that matter more in the long run, to make a long life a blessed one that blesses others.

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